By: Mayor Svante Myrick, Ithaca NY
For the past 40 years, politicians have used the Hyde Amendment—which gets attached to yearly appropriations legislation — to withhold abortion coverage from those qualified and enrolled in Medicaid and other federal insurance programs and interfere in women’s health decisions. It’s one of the most insidious tools in the anti-abortion arsenal, as it was specifically tailored to deny abortion access to low-income people. But this year, in clear contrast to positions widely held just a few years ago, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Platform have called for an end to the Hyde Amendment. This week, I am standing with the Ithaca Common Council to do the same. Here’s why.
When Illinois’s Rep. Henry Hyde in 1975 first introduced his amendment, he said “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman.” But poor women were the only ones within Hyde’s grasp. Thus, the harm of the Hyde Amendment has fallen hardest on low-income people, who are more likely to be women of color, young, immigrants, transgender or gender non-conforming people. In fact, more than half of the women subject to the Hyde Amendment are women of color.
This foreshadowed what became a recurring theme in the hundreds of abortion restrictions that followed: low-income people bear the brunt of the impact. Coverage bans put the cost of abortion care out of reach, then politicians increase that cost by shutting down clinics and requiring longer wait times, imposing greater travel and child care costs. A woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get an abortion.
This how the vicious cycle of poverty is propagated. For those poor women – women like the ones I grew up with, like too many of our Ithaca neighbors – the introduction of the Hyde amendment wasn’t the first or the last time they’ve been targeted by legislators pushing their own agendas.
In New York, we’re lucky that the state has stepped in to ensure coverage for abortion for those enrolled in Medicaid. In contrast to Rep. Hyde’s statements, our own Assemblywoman Connie Cook in 1970 sacrificed her political career to legalize abortion in New York State and make sure women could get safe access to care.
But being able to determine your reproductive future should not be dependent upon whether the state in which you live has decided to pick up the slack for federal politicians. And over the years, the pain and punishment of the Hyde Amendment has still been extended to deny coverage to New Yorkers in Ithaca and across the state, including federal employees and their dependents, military service members, Native Americans, and Peace Corps volunteers.
Today, it’s incumbent upon us to take bold action by uniting to say that 40 years of the Hyde Amendment is more than enough. That’s why I’m proud that the Ithaca Common Council passed the Resolution Supporting Adoption of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act calling on Congress to pass the EACH Woman Act, which would lift the coverage bans that stand in the way of a woman making decisions about pregnancy and parenting that are best for her and her family. I see it as my responsibility to join them by signing a Mayor’s Proclamation that demonstrates my commitment to ensuring that Medicaid covers all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
I ran for Mayor of Ithaca so that I could make bold change for the people in our community. Unjust and discriminatory policies like the Hyde Amendment have for far too long been a way of doing business in this country. voters, bold legislators, and communities across the country are looking to build a future in which all of us can get safe and affordable abortion care, if and when we need it, by showing their support for the EACH Woman Act. Ithaca is proud to stand with them.